Lager Moschendorf, Stories of Franz
Dreer & Family
his wife Anne Koch Dreer
As a child, Franz Dreer and his
family left Ruma, Yugoslavia in 1944. After much hardship and getting away from a
concentration camp in Subotica, Yugoslavia they came to Germany as refugees with only
the clothes on their backs. He was about nine years old. His grandparents, his mother
Resi and three year old sister Mary escaped.
Franz an family in front of the barrack.
Back row left to
Since there were so many refugees
from all over Eastern Europe, there was no shelter available. Together with several
other families they were put in a concrete garage in Mecklenburg. They had to sleep on
straw on the concrete floor. A makeshift stove with bricks and a piece of sheet metal on
top was used for heat and cooking, if food was available.
The meager rations of food just
barely kept them alive. Sometimes at night they went out and stole potatoes and turnips
from the farmers. Sometimes Franz had to sneak into a barn and steal some “chop”
(coarsely ground grain used to feeds the animals). This was then mixed with grated raw
potatoes to make potato pancakes, cooked on the ungreased sheet metal stove. They also
caught frogs and the odd little fish from a pond near the cemetery.
Resi got a job as a cleaning woman
in a castle/fortress (Burg) set up as a typhoid hospital. One time a lady doctor took
her aside and asked if she had head lice, which was most embarrassing. The doctor was
very kind and asked if she minded having some of the washed clean clothes of the people
who had died of typhoid. Being desperate, Resi accepted them. The doctor gave also her a
chance to have a bath. Franz’s grandfather had the job of burying the many people who
died of typhoid.
funeral in Lager Moschendorf
-barracks in the background
months the whole group was sent to a camp. It was for refugees and also a stopping place
for prisoners of war that were returning home from from the Soviet Union. Franz’s father
was among those prisoners, but he did not stay with Resi and his children. He had met
another woman in East Germany and returned to her. That left Resi to look after Franz
and Mary by herself.
The returning men
were so emaciated
they had to put on a diet of very soft and easily digestible food, like oatmeal porridge
and cream of wheat. This was so their stomachs would have a chance to adapt to healthy
regular food and they wouldn’t get sick on regular food. Resi got a job as a kitchen
helper. Grandfather was put in charge of storage supplies.
In one of the barracks the
grandparents got one room and Resi with Franz and Mary got one, too. Food was rationed,
meat was scarce. Once Resi was able to buy some horse meat but didn’t tell the rest of
the family what it was. Franz found out while they were eating, he started making
whinnying sounds and stomp the floor with his feet. The grandmother immediately caught
on, stopped eating and quickly left the room to be sick.
Life became more regulated. Franz
and all the other refugee children had to go to school. A kind young priest organized a
soccer team and Franz became an avid soccer goalie. Years later he played for a junior
team for Bayern/Hof.
When Franz was fourteen years old,
his mother sent him by train from Moschendorf/Hof to Austria to visit his paternal
grandparents. She sent along cigarettes to take (illegally) across the border at Passau.
The customs people caught him and because he was a minor, they had to summon his mother.
She came crying and gave them a sob story how she had ten children (not true) and he was
her oldest and she had no husband. Customs felt so sorry for her, that they let them
both go. People had to resort to a lot of "shady" actions to get through tough times.
When Franz was fifteen he
was able to start as an apprentice at a stone works/ monument company.
Women who lost their husbands
while in the military (there were very many of them), received an adequate pension from
the German government. Those who lost them because of the war and long separation were
left without benefit. There is no record of how many marriages broke up.
The Red Cross sometimes arranged
holidays for very poor malnourished refugee children.
Resi on the left with other camp workers and
a Red Cross nurse from the camp
When Mary was about five they
arranged for her to be sent to Switzerland for a holiday. She stayed with a doctor’s
family. When she returned to Moschendorf she had gained a little weight and looked much
healthier. Many refugee children were sent to families who were willing to have a
holiday child for the summer to give them a chance to have healthy food. They would also
live in a regular house and not in the crowded conditions of the camps.
The family stayed in the barracks
room at the Lager from about 1945 to 1952.
Anne Dreer, 12 Mar 2008
[Published at DVHH.org 16 Jan 2010]